O Key of David and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no one can shut, who shuts and no one can open. Come and bring the prisoners forth from the prison cell, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Since its invention four millennia ago, the key been a symbol of effective power. Even today, the software which drives our computers, or gives us access to our emails or e-banking is activated by a digital key.
Whoever uses keys has control, even if it is delegated to them by the possessor of power. In the modern materialistic world the vast proliferation of locks, pass codes and security devices is a measure of how insecure many of us are with our identity and possessions. Is there a single key that can give us all the sense of freedom and safety needed to live abundantly?
The Key of David, subject of this day's Advent antiphon, refers to Isaiah 22:22 where the prophet says that the key of the household of David will be entrusted to Eliakim when he becomes chief steward, as one worthy of taking responsibility for the safety and well-being of the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The sceptre is a symbol of a ruler's authority which can be handed to another in an act of delegation. These images regard Jesus as One entrusted with the welfare of all who have fallen foul of authority
In the visions of the seer in the book of Revelation (3:7) Jesus declares himself to be inheritor of the power of this key, the ultimate caretaker. When he opens a door, nobody can shut it, or when he closes a door nobody can open it. He also describes himself elsewhere as 'the door', a symbol of security and control. He who is ultimately 'all in all', is entrusted by the Creator Father to reconcile all things in Himself.
These are bold poetic statements about the absolute power of divine love embodied in His very being. And notably, this antiphon looks to Him first and foremost to deliver those imprisoned, or surviving at the extremities of human existence. We are called to share his responsibility exercising liberating power for the good of others. We'd do well to remember that God will open or close, whenever we can't or won't.